Nelson and all its glory was detailed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times travel section that reaches more than 900,000 print edition readers and countless more on the internet.
Headlined “Nelson, Canada, in living colour” the 1,500-word piece was scribed by longtime Times staff travel writer Christopher Reynolds.
“I’ve been wanting to do it since 1986 (the year of the Vancouver Expo), when a friend and I did a long road trip that took us all over BC and Alberta,” Reynolds told the Star via email. “We heard great things about Nelson, but ran out of time to get there. Through many years as a travel writer for the LA Times, I kept Nelson in my back pocket, waiting for a chance to get there.
“Finally, over the summer, the chance came, and I persuaded my wife and my boss to endorse a big looping itinerary road trip that was half vacation and half work. We started in Seattle, headed north to Nelson, then south via Walla Walla to Portland, then back to LA. We were in Nelson at the end of July and beginning of August.”
Reynolds chronicles his journey to Nelson in great detail.
“The town of Nelson, semi-Victorian, substantially bohemian, sportier and more artsy than your average hamlet of 9,700 souls, sits in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, about 30 miles north of the U.S. border,” he writes. “Picture a college town that has misplaced its university.”
Though most of the easy Nelson targets are hit in the piece — draft dodgers, the pot culture, hippies, Roxanne, Whitewater — Reynolds goes well beyond the low hanging fruit that so many travel writers have focused on in past features.
“Just above town rises Toad Mountain, where the discovery of silver prompted the founding of Nelson about 125 years ago,” Reynolds writes. “Nelson’s stone and brick Victorians, once the province of off-duty miners and loggers, now house or neighbor eccentric shops, galleries and restaurants. The Sacred Ride (on Baker Street) peddles bikes. Downward Dog (Front Street) offers pet supplies. The Funky Monkey (Front Street) grills burgers. ROAM (Baker Street) promises gear for rivers, oceans and mountains.”
The feature also paints a great picture of the area’s diverse historical highlights like the Doukhobours, Japanese internment, Vietnam draft dodgers and the downtown revitalization.
Though mostly glowing, Reynolds did take one swipe at the city’s awkward waterfront planning.
“We stayed at the Prestige Resort, a pricey hotel at the water’s edge that should be the greatest place in town, given its location. Instead, it felt like an opportunity squandered — a dull, dark building best suited to the housing of Dunder-Mifflin business travelers. Next time we’ll look more closely at the New Grand Hotel (more character, lower rates) or a local B&B.”
Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce manger Tom Thomson said the feature is a bonus for local tourism.
“Something like that, it’s almost impossible to put a dollar figure on especially when it’s a glowing article like that,” said Thomson. “California is a market where we do get some travelers from, not a prime market, so if you can get at least a few of those people to consider Canada then obviously it’s a positive.”
The Los Angeles Times is the second largest metropolitan newspaper in the United States.
“Since the US economy went south in 2008 it’s been difficult when it comes to American travelers,” said Thomson. “Then you have the Canadian dollar rising and the border issues, our US visits are down.”
During the prime summer months the Chamber’s numbers indicate the drop to be between 25 and 40 per cent.
“It’s positive that Nelson gets these types of articles written about them on a fairly consistent basis without doing any real outbound work where we try to bring media to the area,” said Thomson. “We have some of these in the works, but sometimes Nelson just stands on its own.”
Reynolds has been a staff writer at the Times since 1990 where he has filled different roles including arts reporting and an outdoors columnist. Some of his most recent travel features on London, Machu Piccchu, New York and Southern California close-ups.
The feature can be found on the internet at the Los Angeles Times website at latimes.com/travel/la-tr-nelson-20111016,1,4513661.story.